Flight Department Aviation Articles

10 Things You Need to Start Your Flight Training

Thinking about starting your flight training soon? That’s awesome! Pursuing your pilot certificates is an exciting and big accomplishment. Here are 10 things I highly suggest getting to kickstart your flight training.

Bose A20s Headset

1) Headset

The most popular headsets I’ve seen so far are David Clark and Bose A20’s. These headsets range from roughly $500 to $1100! I found a cheaper headset for $200 on Amazon and they have worked well for the past 2 years. If you buy from a lesser-known company or brand, look up the reviews and choose wisely. Don’t go too cheap. As they say, you get what you pay for. If you have the funds to go for high quality, do so. I’ve used the Bose A20 once and the quality is definitely worth the price in the long term.

2) Flight Bag

Pilot Flight Bag

What better way to carry your flight things around than a stylish flight bag? There is a wide range of flight bags out there with different compartments to satisfy your item holding needs. I would highly suggest that you start off with a smaller size. The picture of the flight bag above is the first one I bought. Over time you will begin to accumulate many things and it’s best to keep it simple and limit your bag size until you truly need something bigger. 

 

3) Knee Board 

Knee Board

Originally when I started my flight training I wasn’t sure how necessary it would be to get a kneeboard. I waited quite a while to get one but soon learned this is one item you should never forget to bring to every flight lesson. The answer is, VERY necessary! My flight school doesn’t let you start off with an IPad for cross countries, which means you're lugging around Nav logs, weight & Balance sheets, sectionals, chart supplements, etc. Do yourself a favor and get a kneeboard to keep all of your important planning papers organized! I currently use a King School Trifold iPad kneeboard and it’s the best ever! But if you wish to start with the metal single plate board, it’s also a really great one to use.

4) Logbooks

Logbook

Once you start logging flight time you need somewhere to put it! There are several different types of logbooks but the main purpose is to keep track of your flight time, sim time, endorsements, etc. Stay in FAR 61.51 (Pilot logbooks) compliance!

5) Red Flashlight

Red Flashlight

According to FAR 61.109 Aeronautical experience, “a person who applies for a private pilot certificate with an airplane category and single-engine class rating must log at least... 3 hours of night flight training in a single-engine airplane...” Night flying is so wonderful but takes a minute to adjust to. Certain procedures change a little but a major must-have is a red flashlight to equip you for successful night operations. A red light is used to preserve your night vision far better than white light. My personal suggestion is to buy at least two in the event one is damaged or stops working.

6) Foggles

Foggles

If we look back at FAR 61.109 it also states “ 3 hours of flight training in a single-engine airplane on the control and maneuvering of an airplane solely by reference to instruments.” In order to comply with this requirement, you're going to need a view limiting device such as a hood or Foggles. These simulate instrument conditions and direct your view to your instruments only instead of looking outside the flight deck.

7) Books, Charts, and Maps

Books Charts Maps

Here are a few books I would highly recommend looking into getting:

  • Private pilot Jeppesen
  • FAR/AIM
  • FAA Airplane Flying Handbook (digital or hard copy)
  • FAA Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (digital or hard copy)
  • Gleim Test Prep – Private Pilot
  • VFR Sectional
  • Your aircraft Information Manual
  • Valid Chart Supplement

8) E6B or electronic E6B flight computer

E6B Flight Computer

An E6B is a flight computer used for flight planning to help you calculate fuel burn, wind correction, time en route, and other critical items. While you are airborne, your E6B can be used to estimate fuel burn, calculate ground speed, and update the estimated time of arrival. 

9) FAA Medical

FAA Medical Certificate

An FAA medical is a must-have to start your flight training. There are three types of medicals you can get. 

1. First Class

2. Second Class

3. Third Class

Each class permits different operation privileges that you will soon learn in your training. Look for an AME (Aviation-Medical Examiner) in your area. I recommend that when you go to get a medical, get the highest class (1st class) medical to see the requirements the AME will expect to receive that medical.

10) Flight School for your needs!

Flight School Students

Are you ready to kick your flight training off? The flight school you pick will structure the foundation of your flight career. They will be your connections into the inner industry and your foundation for fundamental flight operations. You can go Part 61 or Part 141, they both have their advantages and disadvantages but it all depends on your learning needs.

Before you pick a flight school, look up the price of attendance/rentals, success rate if available, credentials of the school's instructional staff, aircraft fleet/on-site maintenance, and talk to current students (if permitted). These are all important steps to picking the best school for you.

Always remember that when you pick a flight school and flight instructor, the majority of the time their values on safety, checklist usage, and skill development will become your structure as a pilot. This can be a stressful decision to make but do your research and you will be just fine!

Best of luck starting your flight training! 

 

 

Understanding Nosewheel Steering

In most small aircraft, steering on the ground is controlled by brakes and rudder pedals. This is through a mechanical linkage pulley system that's pretty old school, also referred to as a free-castering system.

However, as planes get heavier and faster the need for a different system came into place. The Learjet 60 is a perfect example of an aircraft with this. Thus nosewheel steering became the solution. Nosewheel steering facilitates better directional control on the ground for takeoff and landing and sharper maneuvering at slower speeds such as taxiing to park. 

A Design of a Nosewheel Steering

Nosewheel Steering depicted by FlightMechanic.com

There are various designs for nosewheel steering but this is the basic depiction of how it is designed. Most are hydraulically powered and have mechanical, electrical, or hydraulic connections that transmit the pilot input to a steering control unit. The range that these inputs can control the movement of the nosewheel are important, as you don't have full range to move the nosewheel 90 degrees in either direction at just any speed. Most systems only operate up to about 90 knots, and the faster the aircraft is increasing speed towards those knots the less movement the wheel will move. 

Hardly any aircraft manuals depict or discuss this range in detail but this is the best photo I could find that helps illustrate this. Just remember that the faster the aircraft reaches, the more the system goes from nosewheel steering back to your usual rudder pedal system. 

Another important component to know about in this is shimmy dampers. There are torque links attached to the stationary upper cylinder of a nose wheel strut that work to control rapid oscillations, otherwise known as nosewheel shimmy. You'll feel these oscillations sometimes when you're taxiing too fast and/or have too much pressure centered on the front wheel. Simply slow down or try pulling the yoke back then gently back forward and 9/10 times this will stop unless it is a mechanical issue that needs to be addressed. 

There's a lot of components that are a part of the nosewheel steering system. These however seem to be the most common issues pilots have when transitioning to using one and trying to keep their operations smooth and comfortable for passengers. To understand the system better on YOUR aircraft however make sure to always read your flight manual in depth and talk to your mechanics when you can. Usually they're happy to share knowledge and teach you how to not break things as much ;)

Questions or comments? Add them below. 

Transitioning Into Bigger Jets: What to Expect

A few weeks ago we did a post on how to prepare for 121/135 training, aka having to go to a training facility to do ground and sim training and pass a check ride at the end. We talked about tips for how to prepare, how to study and even what to study (biggest things to focus on). This week we're building on that foundation!

Airplane Cockpit

So let's start with the basics. Transitioning into bigger faster airplanes does not happen overnight. Studying over a period of time and making sure you're adequately prepared for your check ride that will eventually come up is the best strategy.

1) Memory Items & Limitations:

Same thing I wrote about last post: know your memory items and limitations BEFORE you even get to the training facility. This includes knowing max airspeeds and stall speeds. This will help for your first situation in handling the aircraft. You should have flash cards or an AFM with a limitations chapter & procedures tabs where you can find these items. Studying the AFM as well helps understand why these are memory items and in turn can help you memorize them

2) Don't Fly with Max Thrust Until You're Ready

This is a simple trick, and yet it's one of the most important. If you're jumping in the sim or airplane to fly for the first time, don't get overexcited about it! Sure it's exciting to get to go faster, but with "great speed comes great responsibility." That's a quote I just made up but there is a lot of truth to it!

After you takeoff, pull the power back

When you're cruising and having to fly a complicated clearance or getting ready for an approach, pull the power back as much as you're allowed

Giving yourself more time to set up and not having to rush through the flight generates less room for mistakes. 

3) Use the Autopilot Accordingly

Learn how the autopilot on this plane works: do you have FLC mode? VS? Any VNAV or APPR mode along with NAV? 

As soon as you have it available, click the mode you want and activate it. And if autopilot transfer is a mode on it then MAKE SURE it's selected to the side that is flying.

During training before you have a check ride or before a critical time, mess around with hand flying and no autopilot. I even shot an approach on the standby instruments without a PFD to see how sensitive the controls and power inputs are. This all just builds into better skill.

Learjet 60XR Cockpit

4) Learn How Your Thrust Levers/Throttles Work

I add this note in because not all levers have the same sensitivity. For example the Citation II takes some work, you have to use a little muscle to move them forward or backward. This is juxtaposed to the Learjets, where 1cm of movement changes N1 by 8%. Just getting a feel for how they work in your plane will be the first biggest step in flying well. 

Remember during your transition to take your time learning things to learn them thoroughly and to ask questions often. Sometimes learning an aircraft with more power can be frustrating and have you doubt your flying skills. Just know it takes time and will come. Fly safe and fly smart!

Questions/comments below

Best Headsets for Your Money in 2021

Well well well, the article we've all been waiting for: how to buy a decent headset without breaking the bank!

Future tip, everything in aviation breaks the bank. Run away while you still can ;)

1) Bose QC35 & NFlight Mic

Looking for some Bose A20's without the price tag? Well, here you go. These headphones are very similar. By buying the Bose QC35 ii and the NFlight Nomad Aviation Microphone, you get the benefit of having normal headphones that double as a headset for about $500, half the price of the A20's! With this, you get noise-cancelling and professional microphone quality. And don't worry, if the headphones die, the microphone still works so you're not left with dead comms. But here's the downside:

  1. this headset is not TSO'd for those who are required to have it for work
  2. the microphone disables Bluetooth when plugged in

HOWEVER, both of these are fixable. You can make this TSO'd by purchasing the NFlight Nomad with David Clark Microphone instead for a higher price than the regular Nomad Pro. Any purchases through NFlight Mic are refundable within 30 days and have a lifetime warranty in which the company will replace the mic attachment, even if the damage is due to abuse. You can also get your Bluetooth back by buying a 3rd piece that costs less than $8. Because the mic disables Bluetooth when plugged in, the Apple Headphone Jack Adapter can plug into the mic box then into your phone and now you get music back in flight!

While the Bose headphones and NFlight Mic have the most popular reviews, you don't have to use these exact brands. A similar company called UFly Mike makes these microphone attachments and also has quality customer service. These microphones are approved to work on any headphones that have a 2.5mm auxiliary audio output. A technical specification says they "can also be easily converted to be compatible with headsets with 3.5mm auxiliary audio inputs with the use of a 2.5mm-to-3.5mm adapter. Popular headsets with a 2.5mm-to-3.5mm adapter:  Sony 1000XM2 and 1000XM3" so you have a range of options depending on what you may already own!

2) David Clark H10-13.4

Okay, first and foremost you can never go wrong with David Clark. The DC H10-13.4 model is your basic and best flight training headset, I won't be convinced otherwise. If you're on the hunt for a headset that will:

  • last forever
  • is comfortable to wear for hours
  • has a good cable length
  • has a foam cushion for the top of your head
  • come from a company with great customer service
  • offers excellent sound quality

then this is the headset for you. Given this does not offer Bluetooth or noise-cancelling, but now you don't have to worry about replacing batteries. Almost no maintenance is ever needed (although I'd recommend cleaning the earpads after a sweaty flight for hygiene purposes). Every time you're ready to fly, just grab this and go. The link attached for this one (in the above paragraph) includes a headset bag which is a must-have. It has different zippers to hold your medical, certificates, photo ID, and whatever else you need. 

For flight training students needing a headset that is cheap but won't break every 6 months, I recommend this every time. In fact, almost all of my students have purchased this exact model and love it. 

3) FARO Stealth Audio Link

Disclaimer: this one isn't a full-on headset. This is a product advertised by Sporty's that can convert any headset -- any brand, passive or active noise reduction -- to a Bluetooth headset. While I've used David Clark's and the NFlight mic conversion, I haven't had the ability to try this out. It's on the to-do list to order and review soon! 

So far the FARO Stealth Audio Link has 4 out of 5 stars with multiple reviews. The downside it seems is the cables can be kind of bulky and it needs improvement on the squelch transmission. But overall you get Bluetooth capability on older headsets that didn't have it installed and it pairs easily with your phone. 

4) FARO Stealth 2 Passive Headset

Last but not least! I had a student send this to me recently and decided to look into it because I was intrigued. This is a basic headset that offers good sound quality but also Bluetooth for less than $250. The FARO Stealth 2 Passive Headset offered through Sporty's is kind of new to the market.

Tested by multiple CFI's (even during covid having to wear a mask), feedback said the Bluetooth sound quality is great and the mic picks up sound easily. What this headset lacks is noise-canceling, which if you're flying GA then do you really need it? Not all small planes are super loud and it's good to be able to hear the engine the entire flight so you can detect if it's trying to tell you something is wrong. This headset may be best for pilots building time and doing longer flying days who aren't looking to spend a lot of money. 

Looking for any other Pilot Supplies? Click on that link and check out our directory of tons of pilot supplies ranging from "A Cut Above" uniforms to aviator sunglasses and, of course, headsets!

Best of luck in your search for a new headset! Questions about any of these or have a headset you'd like to see added to this post? Comment below. 

3 Planes to Add to Your Christmas List

1) Cessna 182 on Floats

Seaplane ratings are one of the least sought after ratings by pilots. They're usually not needed to pursue most professional careers, so if people don't need to spend money on them, they just don't!

They're most popular in places like Florida and Alaska where the landscape is better suited for the aircraft type.

Some of the most fun planes to fly on the water are a Cessna 182 or a Piper Super Cub on Floats.

Even cooler is the Icon, specifically the A5 model. There are lots of different planes that are fun to fly on the water, but my favorite has to be the Piper Super Cub of these 3 listed.  

2) Cirrus SR22

I'm quoting one of my country coworkers when I say this (so read it in a southern accent): the SR22 is the 'cat's meow' of general aviation. It truly cannot get any better than this. Cirrus set out to design something highly aerodynamic that, while even being a high weight, has a long glide range and fast TAS. 

Cirrus are high-quality aircraft. Usually, they come with a hefty price tag, but they're worth every penny. 

Butterfly doors, a certified parachute, and spring-loaded controls as its own rudder gust lock system give it unique qualities. But the best thing is it's just an easy plane to fly. While being a sleek plane, the checklists are still simple and operating procedures are easy to understand -- there's nothing in the systems that's entirely different from something like a C172. You might have to learn FADEC or adjust to flying a constant-speed prop without having a manifold pressure lever, but most pilots get the hang of things in 2-3 flights. 

3) Diamond DA 62

Well, do I need to say anything after you look at this picture? The DA 62 is without a doubt my favorite multi-engine general aviation type aircraft. 

This is like the SR22: easy to fly, has great maneuverability, and is again the "cat's meow" of flying! While the cirrus is easily a favorite single-engine piston type plane, this is the gold medalist of the multi-engine world (outside of turbojets). For those shopping for a plane that has good economic fuel burn but also has good speed to make it to different destinations across the states within a day: THIS.IS.IT.

I can't say it enough, you don't want to miss out on flying this plane! A single flight in these makes a multi-engine ticket worth it.

Any other ideas on planes to ask Santa for this year? There are always lots of fun aircraft to fly that are easily forgotten or not flown as much but are still such a blast. 

Stay tuned and let us know what you guys get for Christmas! It's always fun to see what pilots around the world get as gifts; unique people make for unique presents.

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